Nutson's Nuggets - Automotive News Factoids August 26-September 1, 2013


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Auto Central Louisville, KY September 1, 2013 Each week Larry Nutson, Senior Editor, New York Bureau of The Auto Channel, along with Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau give you easy to digest nuggets of the past week's automotive news you may have missed.

If you are a car nut like we all are, you can easily "catch up" on these stories as well as the past 17 year's 1,473,117 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, rants and raves by just searching for the subject you are interested in The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive. Hey South Florida TV viewers, I know you are enjoying watching The Auto Channel's TACH-TV on channel 44 WHDT-TV Palm Beach (Cable 17 and 438, channel 9 Miami and channel 32 Fort Meyers-Naples, and thanks for the positive feedback....See you next week, LN

Automotive News August 26-September 1, 2013

* Customer satisfaction with automobiles fell in 2013 for the first time in two years according to The American Customer Satisfaction Index. European manufacturers ranked first with a satisfaction score of 84.7, followed by Asian automakers with a score of 84.1, and a score of 82 for U.S. companies. The Mercedes-Benz brand topped the survey with a score of 88, up 4 percent from 2012, followed by Lexus, with a score of 87, down 2 percent from 2012. Third-place Subaru, Toyota and Honda each scored 86 -- 3 points above the industry average. GMC, 85, tied with Cadillac in fourth place. Ford and Chrysler, which gained 5 points from 2012, tallied scores of 83, matching the industry average.

* We learned of the latest in magical suspension technology from ZF this week from our friends at The Detroit Bureau. They reported on a ZF "regenerative suspension" that can capture the energy from the suspension's movements over rough pavement. We've seen many "active" suspension innovations over the past decade but this is a first. Earlier adaptive ride systems used a lot of electricity so more powerful batteries and alternators were necessary. We could see this system in high end luxury and sports cars soon.

* Nissan announced this week that the next generation Titan pickup due out in 2015 will get a Cummins diesel making 300-hp, 500 lb-ft of torque as a powertrain option. A version of the diesel engine is expected for Nissan's other commercial vehicles like the NV 300 van.

* Imagine our surprise when we learned from Automotive News Europe this week that Saab's new owner is planning to restart production of that storied, but assumed dead, brand. The resurrected company, National Electric Vehicle Sweden, is owned by a Chinese entrepreneur who expects to gather the necessary permits and approvals to begin making a car similar to the 9-3 with a turbo-charged engine. The overall plan includes an electric version of the car as well.

* The National Motorists Association announced this week a major facelift for its "National Speed Trap Exchange" where drivers can log on to report or research speed traps around the country. According to the NMA, "Over these past 13 years, motorists have reported over 80,000 speed trap locations with descriptive information that help fellow drivers understand the cat-and-mouse tactics used by law enforcement . . ." See the new site at: www.speedtrap.org.

* It's not easy doing business in China. Just ask Elon Musk of Tesla. With the success of his electric cars in the U.S. he intends to expand into China but finds that a Chinese entrepreneur has already secured rights to the name. Musk may have to buy off the guy or change the name. Can you imagine Musk's reaction? The interloper even has a Website with pictures of a Tesla-like car.

* Bonneville Speed Week ended last weekend with one notable record not broken - that for a motorhome. The Palmer Designs GMC LSR front-wheel drive motorhome managed an amazing 120.8 miles per hour but the record of 128.6 held. They promise to be back next year with a goal of 130 mph.

* Autonomous vehicles, "hands off" cars that drive themselves, have garnered lots of attention lately with speculation that between 2020 and 2025 we'll see them begin to show up in the market as infrastructure develops. Nissan this week promised it will have a fully autonomous vehicle for sale at the early end of the speculative range, in 2020. A huge impediment to implementation is the legal environment, perhaps more a problem than the technology itself.

* The Detroit News reports that manufacturing plans for electric-car maker Detroit Electric appear to have stalled. The revived automaker hasn’t yet finalized an agreement for a manufacturing facility in Wayne County, Michigan, even though it said in March it would be building the SP:01 electric sports car by now. Previous plans called for Detroit Electric to begin manufacturing its vehicle at a facility in Plymouth, Michigan by this month. The company called for an annual production capacity of about 2,500, and said it would employ more than 100 workers. Those plans are now pushed back, North American president Don Graunstadt said to The Detroit News. The future of the automaker should become more clear in the next couple of weeks. The Detroit Electric name, brought back after seven decades by a group of ex-Lotus Engineering Group executives, is buoyed by private investment. The company said in March it hoped to sell 999 of its $135,000 SP:01 two-seat sports cars, built on the same platform as the Lotus Elise.

* In its ninth annual report on traffic accidents, Allstate Insurance analyzed its claims data for 195 cities filed between January 2010 and December 2011 to determine how likely any given driver might suffer an accident. Since Allstate represents about 10 percent of the nation's insured drivers, it's claims offer an accurate picture of national trends. For the third time, Fort Collins, Colo., ranked as the city with the best drivers. And, Washington, D.C. is Number one with the worst drivers.

* Chrysler Group LLC will recall 2013 model year Fiat 500e electric vehicles because the fasteners that attach the inboard ends of the driveshafts to the transmission could loosen, resulting “in a loss of drive capability,” Chrysler said. About 491 vehicles are involved. The 500e is only offered in California.

* After 57 years, Volkswagen is pulling the plug on Type 2 Kombi van production in Brazil. To mark the end, 600 commemorative "Last Edition" Type 2s will be produced. They'll be outfitted with light blue paint, blue vinyl seats and white-wall tires. Volkswagen had been building the Type 2 Kombi since 1967. The VW Bus and Camper was popular in the U.S. during the hippie-generation and also with outdoor-types. The first-generation Type 2 went into production in Germany in 1950 and this generation ceased in 1979. But Brazil kept making them, adding a water-cooled engine and an add-on black radiator grille in 2005. Auf Wiedersehen.

* The Lincoln brand is “not true luxury,” and faces a tough road back that will take years. So says J Mays, Ford’s design chief. Mays said the company’s focus on rebuilding Lincoln has only just begun — and that Lincoln’s reinvention could take a decade.

* Might you remember seat belt interlocks from the mid-1970s. The NHTSA rejected a petition from German automaker BMW AG, which wanted to skip certain crash-testing requirements if it installed seat belt interlocks in the front seat. BMW said interlocks could make its vehicles lighter and more spacious because it would be able to remove knee bolsters and other features just needed for the unbelted. And, a lighter vehicle will have reduced fuel consumption. NHTSA said it will study the interlock issue. We see two government requirements in conflict: reduce fuel consumption by making vehicles lighter vs heavier add on safety equipment for people who don't buckle up.

* The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that the 2014 Honda Odyssey minivan earns the Institute's top safety designation for good performance in all five IIHS crash evaluations, including the challenging small overlap front test. The Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in the moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover and rear crash evaluations. The 2014 Odyssey is the first minivan the Institute has evaluated in the small overlap front test. Honda asked the Institute to test the Odyssey to highlight structural changes the automaker made to improve occupant protection in a small overlap front crash.

* A Ford Fiesta subcompact wrapped in bacon. Yes. The Fiesta compact can be had swaddled in one of four vinyl wraps depicting luscious strips of bacon. Ford officials swear that the wraps are real, available with their other wraps on the Fiesta graphics website. The bacon wrap promotion is tied to International Bacon Day. Ford says a bacon-wrapped Fiesta gives "a whole new meaning to breakfast to go."

Enjoy this Labor Day weekend and safe travels to all. LN

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